Mario Molteni

Ashoka Fellow
Fellow Since 2015


This profile was prepared when Mario Molteni was elected to the Ashoka Fellowship in 2015.
The New Idea
In recognition of its innovative model, the ALTIS program received the AshokaU-Cordes Innovation Award in 2012 and it offers practical education and training to entrepreneurs with a particular focus on those from developing countries in Sub-saharan Africa, India and Latin America. Following the successful development of the ALTIS model, Mario decided to create E4Impact in order to bring the model to other institutions of higher learning across the world, starting with Tangaza College of the Catholic University of East Africa. The training model is offered in partnership with local universities and has a strong orientation towards supporting entrepreneurs whose innovations have the potential to create new jobs in the market.

Mario’s new idea is to partner with local universities in developing countries in order to make the ALTIS innovation more accessible to local entrepreneurs, while simultaneously transforming the local institutions into impact-oriented support platforms that meet the needs of the rapidly changing higher education environment. Although there is a growing consensus on the need for and role of entrepreneurship education to support local entrepreneurs, and the existence of innovative entrepreneurship education programs such as ALTIs, local universities continue to face challenges adapting to the rapidly changing higher education landscape thus failing in their mandate to prepare young people for the formal economy. For Mario, efforts to move the millions of small scale entrepreneurs who dominate the informal sectors in developing countries will not succeed without the critical role that entrepreneurship education plays in this process, and such education is best offered by the institutions of higher learning (universities and colleges). Only then will local entrepreneurs be in a position to compete for opportunities such as investment and funding to enable them to scale their impact and ultimately become sustainable.

The E4Impact initiative is based on Mario’s insight that a dynamic entrepreneurial system is fundamental to sustain the economies of developing countries particularly due to the significant role that entrepreneurs play in the job creation process. In addition, Mario strongly believes that institutions of higher learning have a critical role to play in developing such entrepreneurial systems particularly through training of local entrepreneurs. Unlike primary and secondary education, the higher education space is characterized by significant global competition which means that the brightest people from developing countries often end up going abroad for university education with the majority remaining there for most of their productive life. This phenomenon, also called “brain drain” is directly linked to the global competition for talent at the university level something that Mario experienced when he launched the ALTIS program in Italy. Ultimately, Mario’s goal is to empower local institutions of higher learning so that they can become as competitive as their international counterparts and hence stem the problem of brain drain. Only then will the brightest minds from developing countries choose to stay and come up with social enterprises that address problems such as youth unemployment.
The Problem
The Strategy
The Person

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